Book Review of A Thousand Pieces of You, or How to Escape
I have a confession to make: I think I’m becoming an adrenaline junkie of a reader. I hadn’t read more than four paragraphs into A Thousand Pieces of You, and I knew I was going to love it. These are them:
My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall. Rain falls cold and sharp against my skin, from a sky I’ve never seen before. It’s hard to catch my breath, to get any sense of where I am. All I know is that the Firebird worked. It hangs around my neck, still glowing with the heat of the journey.
There’s no time. I don’t know whether I have minutes, or seconds, or even less. Desperately I tug at these unfamiliar clothes–the short dress and shiny jacket I wear have no pockets, but there’s a small bag dangling from my shoulder. When I fish inside, I can’t find a pen, but there’s a lipstick. Fingers trembling, I unscrew it and scrawl on a tattered poster on the wall of the alley. This is the message I must pass on, the one goal I have to remember after everything else I am is gone.
KILL PAUL MARKOV.
Then I can only wait to die.
Whoa, right? After reading those words, you feel every bit as disoriented as the main character, Marguerite Caine, who has just traveled to a dimension parallel to our own in pursuit of the person she believes killed her father, who helped invent the Firebird, the mechanism that enabled her and her father’s killer to jump their consciousnesses into their parallel selves in other dimensions. A Thousand Pieces of You is a wild chase across a number of different realities, based on the theory of parallel worlds or universes, which posits that every decision every person makes creates a reality, and the alternatives of those decisions play out in other whole universes very similar to ours, infinitely numbered and populated.
Book Review of a Thousand Pieces of You
While this book is not the first to explore in fiction the possible ramifications of the discovery of and ability to travel to these parallel worlds, it is one of the first that I’m aware of that does so in the young adult genre. The main character is a teenage girl, the daughter of two brilliant physicists who have discovered that there are countless parallel dimensions and as well as a way to travel between them. She takes that journey to avenge her father’s death. The voice is very much young adult, with Marguerite’s main concern, even given the gravity of her circumstances, being which of the two main young male characters is truly worthy of her affection.
It’s fascinating to me that while the premise of the book could have led to so many plot twists that it could have come too confusing to keep track of that Gray manages to wield just enough of them to make the plot unpredictable but not complicated. This book has two sequels—Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds With You—in which that does become more of an issue. But even then, Gray names each of the five or so universes–Russiaverse, Triadverse, etc.–and makes each very distinct. The author does a good job of weaving consistent elements throughout, describing key details well, and giving just the right amount of emotional description.
Of course, the premise also lends itself well to a variety of unpredictable settings: alternate dimensions that are either super-futuristic, rustic and Russian, aquatic, or otherwise. They are vividly and efficiently shown. In another book, the writer could have gotten so caught up in the description of each of these different settings that it would’ve slowed the plot to a crawl; I can certainly see the temptation. But she doesn’t.
So do yourself a favor: go out and get this book! My used hardback copy was $6 on Amazon; as of today, the site still has over 100 used and new copies for $2 to $3. (No, they did not pay me to say that.)